As we move in to 2021, you may be wondering whether this is the year to quit smoking for good. At the same time, you might also be worried that New Year’s resolutions don’t often last beyond January.
Experts agree that if you smoke, you should think seriously about quitting smoking this new year. Stopping smoking brings immediate benefits to your lung and heart health and can add years to your life. It also protects those around you from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke. And, in the current COVID-19 pandemic, quitting can help others by relieving some of the pressure on our NHS.
Stop Smoking London spoke to Dr Sarah Jackson, a behavioural scientist at University College London (UCL), for her expert advice on how best to make sure your New Year’s resolution lasts.
Dr Jackson explained: “One of the main reasons you may struggle with New Year’s resolutions is because you’re aiming for an overhaul of your entire lifestyle. While it’s great to aim high, it’s very difficult to achieve everything at once. The best and most successful approach is to focus clearly on your one and most important goal.”
“There are a number of reasons New Year’s resolutions don’t always translate into long-term behaviour change. You may find it difficult to let go of past attempts which haven’t worked out. Or perhaps you haven’t put the right plans in place to help. And sometimes, it’s simply about just not having the support you need.”
With this in mind, Dr Jackson and Stop Smoking London have put together the following tips to help you make sure your New Year’s resolution lasts.
1: Make a plan
The first step in quitting smoking as your New Year’s resolution (or at any time of the year) is planning. This means setting a quit date and thinking about what tools and support you might use. Remember – if it was easy to quit, everybody would do it.
You don’t need to quit on New Year’s Day itself, but you might decide to use this day to start planning. Once you’ve picked a quit date, remember to mark it in your calendar.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to stopping smoking – you need to get the right support in place that would work best for you.
To start your plan and to get free, personalised support as you quit call the Stop Smoking London helpline on 0300 123 1044.
2: Find your motivation
Before you quit, be clear why it’s important to you. For example, do you want to save money, is it for your children or do you want to be healthier?
Whatever your reason for quitting, keep this in mind to stay on track. Try keeping an image of your reason for quitting as your phone wallpaper and looking at it whenever you’re tempted to smoke. Simple things like this can really help.
Smoking triggers are the things that make you want to smoke. They can be situations or emotions. We know that smoking is a habitual behaviour, so if you find yourself in a situation that you would usually smoke in, you may experience cravings to do so after you’ve quit.
Identifying and understanding your triggers is an important part of planning for success. Of course, there will be some triggers you can’t avoid, so instead, think about strategies for managing these. It could be finding a replacement activity like chewing gum, keeping your hands busy, or changing your routine.
It can be hard to stay motivated if you feel you’re doing this on your own. If you know someone who also wants to quit you can do this together and support each other on the way. There are also online communities to help you quit smoking.
It’s really important to tell the people in your life you are quitting smoking so they can support and encourage you if you feel like giving up. And, for some of you, it can be motivating just knowing you will have to tell them if you do start smoking again.
Also, it’s a good idea to ask friends and family who smoke to not do this in front of you, not to offer you a cigarette or leave any lying about.
One way you can get your support team behind you is via social media. For example, by posting a status update letting people know you are quitting or you could add a Facebook frame to your profile using these step-by-step instructions and this image.
5: Use stop smoking aids
The main reason people smoke is because they’re addicted to nicotine. When you stop smoking, you cut off your nicotine supply, which can lead to withdrawal symptoms. But using stop smoking aids like NRT or vapes can help and will double (and in some cases triple) your chances of stopping for good.
Stopping smoking can be difficult; believe in yourself and you can succeed. Be careful not to focus too much on the times you may have tried to quit before and stay positive.
You not only need to believe in yourself, but you also need to look after yourself. We know that established guided meditation and visualisation techniques, exercise and getting a good night’s sleep as you quit smoking can all really help you.
You’re much more likely to succeed at quitting with personalised support. If you’d like help at any stage of your stop smoking journey, search for your local stop smoking service. You can also call 0300 123 1044 to speak to a Stop Smoking London advisor.